Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve... live from a sofa near you

Firstly I must tell you - something weird happened tonight with me and Darth Vader.

Bear with me. There's this guy (or gal) calling themselves Darth Vader on Twitter, and they asked for a three word description of the Dark Lord of the Sith. I replied saying I couldn't do it in 3 words, but gave a link to this blog post. 'Darth' re-tweeted my link to his quarter of a million followers. So suddenly (not that I follow my stats on Statcounter or anything) I've had 1500 people (and counting) visit that post...

...for an average of 5 seconds.... hahaha! Andy Warhol was wrong - not even fifteen minutes,

added later: ... although Darth doesn't tweet that often so I'm still getting hits from it, and a few new followers, and a great story which both self-agrandises and self-denigrates... but does end up with people wanting me to explain (in detail) what Twitter is and what's the difference between Twitter and Facebook and Blogging and Linked-in and my arse. (Not really - just added that in to see if anyone was paying attention.)

It just goes to show how many sad, lonely people who don't get invited to New Year parties are getting something out of Twitter, and the internet. It's nice for us them.

I've been trying to be positive, what with my top Christmas pressies, and my highlights of 20210 (hey... I can't drink tequila and type!) and not mentioning the BAD BITS and the CONTINUING SAGAs and the TROUBLES AHEAD. But really.

Must I bear alone the trauma of my mother's gift of a leopard-skin shower cap (and matching snuggle) and 48 boxes of chocolates? Could be worse - my BFF got a doorstop, a tea towel, teabags and (ahem) 16 random library books.

Anyway, there's some more cheap fizz en route so I'll stop here. But if you're reading this tonight, here's some comfort for you - 'staying in' is the new 'going out'. Twitter said so. But then it says a lot of things.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Cheers!! *raises can of Stella and gets all teary...*

Thursday, 30 December 2010

My 2010 Highlights

I always get a bit contemplative this time of year. I suddenly cease to be any fun at parties, preferring to dwell on the year past and

The ten best things that happened to me this year:

1. I got a job as a library assistant. It's the sort of job I'd have liked on leaving school. If that had happened I'd probably still be there and there's no counting the adventures I wouldn't have had. But it's kind of nice to be doing it now - far less stressful than some of my other recent incarnations!

2. You! I started writing this blog last winter, have had lots of unexpected fun and interaction with great fellow-bloggers through venturing into blogland and celebrating my 100th post!

3. Coming second in THREE poetry slams - Liverpool Most Romantic Poet, Liverpool Glam Slam, and the far less glamorous Morton Arms Poetry Competition

4. Learning to cope with the anxiety which has affected me badly over the last few years. From having a panic attack during a yoga relaxation session back in February to...

5. ...celebrating my 200th live poetry performance a few weeks ago (since my first open mic in 2003)

6. A very enjoyable fortnight in Madeira!

7. Lovely short breaks in The Lake District and Prague

8. Earning a total of £287 from writing/performing... *sigh*...must try harder.

9. Many visits to Scotland. Not for nice reasons, but it was good to get to know it a bit better.

10. Arriving at the turn of this year better equipped than at the turn of the last - materially (better gadgets etc) but also emotionally.

What have been the highlights of 2011 for YOU?

Monday, 27 December 2010

OK, Let it STOP Snowing Now!

Where I live, you can go for years without a dusting, a flurry, or even a frost!

But I've just been making a list of how many times - and where - I've been snowed on during the last few years.

March 2009 - My first proper snow (alright ice) sighting for years and was too much fun NOT to mention - heli-hiking on Fox Glacier, NZ (of which more in a supplemental post to come).

April 2009 - Unexpected blizzard whilst staying in the Mt Cook YHA - unseasonably early (equivalent of early October!). The 2nd picture is near neighbouring Lake Tekapo.

May 2009 - Patagonia. OK, winter in Patagonia we weren't expecting a heatwave. Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno Glacier (3rd pic), and Ushuaia were all quite chilly.

January 2010 - snowed in at home! (4th pic) This never happens.

January 2010 - snowed in in Scotland - twice!

February 2010 - snowed in in Bury. A walking weekend (note absence of the words 'exotic', 'luxury' or 'pampering') turned into a chilly knee-deep stumble in a desperate bid to escape.

March 2010 - Scotland (again). 2-storey mounds of snow outside Tesco in Keith (could have been worse - mounds of snow outside Keith in Tesco)

* there may have been a bit of summer here *

November 2010 - snowed in in Scotland. I mean really snowed in. Read this post.

November 2010 - snowed in in Prague (bottom pic)

December 2010 - snowed in at home again. It is starting to thaw... but the year ain't over yet!

It's just a good job I have a range of cold-weather head-gear you will not fully appreciate from these pictures alone.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The BEST Christmas pressie

So what did you find under your tree?

I got an animal-print 'Snuggle' - one of those blankets with arms (I mean sleeves, not an AK47), an 'I love spreadsheets' mug and about twenty boxes of chocolates.

But I also got the perfect pressie for 2010.

This is one Clare-bear who won't be going A over T like Fran did in this post on Being Me

Yes! I am the lucky recipient of a pair of rubber slip-on traction aids.


Gosh, this post soooo needs a picture, otherwise I don't know where your imaginations might take you.

I mean these of course:

Get a Grip.

You pop them over your shoes and the little spikes stick in the ice. You could even run on them... although not after a dinner the size of the one I've just had.

I can't recommend them enough - especially with more snow a-coming. Here's the link: Get A Grip Everyday Traction Aid Small-Medium

...right! I'm off to 'slip into something more comfortable'.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Tis the Season for a Ho Ho Ho down!

My explorations into the world of the Santa Dash have taken a nasty turn and I have gone to the Dark Side of Christmas.

According to Santarchy huge numbers of Santa's proudly get their Claus into various American cities within drunken pranks. To be fair, their rules do state that whilst SOME naughty is nice, running amok, abusing passersby, projectile vomiting on buses, 'lady' Santa's baring their breasts and the public hanging of loveable old St Nick is generally frowned on, tutted at and the perpetrators get no presents.

This trend has even spread to China.

Plenty more 'bad-ass' Santa's at Unreality Mag.

It's all a far cry from my works Christmas 'do'. Just to say that if you're ever invited to Liscard Greek Taverna... don't go! The only nod in the direction of Christmas were four crackers per table of ten, so we had to take turns with the party hat. The food was terrible, the exotic dancer scary, service both slow and atrocious, and we had the most sarcastic waiter I've ever encountered. Ho ho HA!

I was going to share some festive fun with 'most appropriate carols for a variety of psychiatric conditions, but couldn't recall where I came across the list. Google to the rescue - I found some of them reproduced in a 2007 edition of the Daily Mail HERE. That's me - finger on the pulse!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers

Broken Biro


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Another few moments of silence

On the heals of my 'The Silence Museum' post, I wanted to say more on the subject, inspired by comments received. However Raining Acorns has done a much better job of talking about silence in this post.

I was also going to mention the campaign to put John Cage's 4'33" into the top spot of the Christmas hit parade.

This piece - as you will no doubt be aware - consists of three movements. The score instructs all the performers not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece - so it actually consists of the background sounds in the environment in which it is listened to.

I love the idea of the biggest selling piece of music this Christmas being a few minutes of silence. If I'd posted this sooner I would have been exhorting you to pervert the X-Factor* hit machine by supporting the campaign: Cage Against the Machine** where there are instructions how to download it free . But sadly 4'33" only got to 21 this week.

The most bizarre thing about 4'33" is that it is not alone. There's a list of nearly 'silent' songs by nearly 30 different artists on Wikipedia including The Nutopian National anthem by John Lennon and 72 short, silent tracks by Marilyn Manson***.

Incidentally, my new novel: "8 Hours 42 Minutes" is going to be released this year. It's about whatever you happen to be thinking about or distracted by as you turn the 324 blank pages. Do you think it will catch on?

Thanks to readers for the following links:

Any other favourite kinds of silence you might to have liked to see get a mention?

* How can I even be mentioning this on my own blog? *spits*

** Named after the musically-challenged and lyrically-unintelligible Rage Against the Machine who successfully bucked the X-Factor trend after an online campaign last year

*** Marilyn Manson is, of course, a bit stand-offish at the Christmas Table. He has his own, personal cheeses

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ho Ho Ho! My favourite Christmas Jokes

It's a funny time of year - and I hope these Christmas jokes make it just a little bit funnier:
Q - Why is Christmas just like another day at the office?
A - You end up doing all the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.

Three men die on Christmas Eve. St Peter says they can get into heaven if they have something Christmassy with them.
The first guy clicks his lighter. 'It's a candle!' He says, and is allowed in.
The second guy jangles a bunch of keys. 'Jingle bells!' He sings, and is allowed in.
The third guy thinks for a minute then fishes a pair of ladies' knickers out of his pocket.
'In what way are they Christmassy?' asks Saint Peter.
'They’re Carol’s!'
We were very poor. Every Christmas my mother would give us all a haircut and then we’d sit down to Xmas dinner with all the trimmings.

Q- How does Darth Vader know what Luke Skywalker is getting for Christmas?
A - Because he has felt his presents.

A woman goes into a post office to buy some stamps for her Christmas cards. 'What denomination do you want?' asks the lady at the counter. 'Good God!' she said. 'Has it come to this? I suppose you'd better give me twenty Catholic and twenty Protestant.

Q - Why does Santa come down the chimney?
A - Because those pants are tight and he wriggles a lot

I got a Helium book for Xmas. I can’t put it down.
I got a U2 jigsaw for Christmas. I'm starting with the Edge.

I bought my kids a David Blaine doll for Christmas – they couldn’t open the box!

Tampax are replacing the string on tampons with a piece of tinsel – but just for the Christmas period only

More seasonal sillies in The Funniest Christmas Joke Book Ever

~ That's all folks! ~

There's more Christmas humour at

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Silence Museum

Outside it is always noisy
but within these walls, more than a metre thick,
we hold, insulated, the history
and lost examples of silence.
Visitors are ushered, whispering
through padded cubicles, astounded.

Turn off your phones and music,
speak only in whispers.
We Curators live in silence.
It is our vocation – chosen
from the quietest children
we were trained to listen.
It is like a religion.

The first floor is devoted
to the silence before a sound
with perfect specimens of the pregnant pause:
the counted silence between flash and thunder
that measures your distance from a storm,
the animal quiet of the dog that will be first to bite,
the charged stillness of a held breath
between the last tick and the explosion,
and, the prize of our collection,
the last natural recording of a pin about to drop... 

Beautiful isn’t it?

On other floors we preserve
examples of the silence after a sound –
the straining, listening silence after
the bump in the night,
the sullen tongue-holding of the instructed silence,
one minute silences filled with awkward sorrow,
and rare samples from ground zero
those twin silences of shock and awe.

Our interactive exhibit invites you to consider:
the silence of the crowd at the call for volunteers,
the silence of a majority who oppose without speaking
– the silence that is mistaken for complicity,
the silence that is suffered in.

Listen for a moment…

Our researchers are gathering examples
that measure silence – its depth and width
from the silence of mutual understanding
which needs no vocabulary
to the dumb silence of incomprehension,
from an argument seen through triple-glazed windows
to the last wilderness on a windless day.

Many silences are near extinction.
But we can manufacture them
using the exact wavelengths and frequencies
that echo the weighty absence of sound in space,
and we are close to containing
that final silence
when your own music stops,
and your body ceases whispering
its rhythmic commentary.

(c) Clare Kirwan 2005        

First Published in Aberrant Dreams

Picture: Los Angeles new Museum of the Holocaust

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Zombie Santa

I hate to do this to you. Really.

Having little in the way of Christmas material, I wrote this poem, thinking myself rather clever and original. Then I found out I wasn't - Googling for pictures I found there are 1.5 million pictures available to illustrate this post. There's even a T-shirt - and riffing off this post(look away now, Dave) a Santa Zombie Walk in California... well there would be, wouldn't there?


I bet there aren't 1.5 million poems... but I wonder if this is the sort of thing I should read out as festive guest poetess at Zest! in Chester this Monday?

Zombie Santa

Tis Christmas eve – an eerie glow
and crimson spreading in the snow.
Can that be Santa Claus’s shape
spelled out in chalk, held back by tape?
forensics gather, shake their heads
foul play suspected – Santa’s dead!

Checking out the reindeer do’s
between the cracks in his shiny shoes,
the cause of death is quite unclear
Perhaps there are dark forces here.
Rudolf’s locked up with the elves
for questioning in bridewell cells.

But out across the chimney stacks
a well-known figure’s flies with sacks
of presents for the girls and boys
not games or sweets, not little toys.
A flash of red – it’s awful shocking,
who’s come now to fill your stocking?

Cold dead Santa in the snow
had said his final ‘Ho, ho, ho’
his face a frozen cheery grin,
dead, rigor mortis setting in
resting safe in angel’s arms?
No! Now zombie Santa roams and harms.

Too late for tears, too soon to grieve.
and panto folk can not believe
that Santa’s dead and cannot find you.
Oh no he isn’t! He’s behind you!
Undead Santa, grubby, sly
Rubs chubby hands, gives evil eye

If you see Santa in your hall,
you’ll know it isn’t him at all,
no burglar, no ne-er do well
but zombie Santa, back from hell
with demon gifts, an evil gleam.
If you’ve been bad he’d make you scream

if you’d been good he’d eat your heart
and tear you limb from limb apart
he’ll saunter in to rape your daughter,
show her things mum never taught her.
Hark! the herald angel yells
Santa’s rampant – save yourselves!

So vampire Santa dripping blood
shall terrorise each neighbourhood,
and Yule from now on will be seen
as scarier than Hallowe’en
we cower behind our trees in fear:
Oh don’t let Santa find us here!
the only thing that brings us cheer
is Christmas comes just once a year

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Postcard from Prague

This is just a quick post to share some of my snaps from my trip to Prague (so far). It is ridiculously beautiful and although the snow makes getting around a bit perilous, it's very Christmassy!

(Incidentally - the last picture is the John Lennon 'peace wall' near the Little Quarter end of Charles Bridge. Today is the anniversary of his death. There was a picture of me there, but I deleted it by accident - maybe John's way of commenting on my John Lennon poem from beyond the grave). 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Young Duke Wenceslas, beer and pizza

I'm on my way to Prague right now. England not being quite cold enough.

Because it's Christmas, I'll be staying near St Wenceslas Square so I wanted to find out a few facts about the 'Good King Wenceslas'

Let's face it - our entire knowledge of Czechoslovakia's patron saint is that he had no fear of foul weather, was generous to peasants, had unnaturally superheated footprints (perhaps he had Uggs) and preferred his pizza deep-pan to the crisp and even kind. So here's what I have learned:

  1. He was made a saint just because he was murdered on the way to church - it was much easier to get  halo in those days. 
  2. He died at the age of 28
  3. Looking at this statue of him in Prague - he had no idea how to ride a horse - that's never going to work
  4. He wasn't a King... he was a very naughty boy... I mean, erm, a Duke of Bohemia
  5. The tune to the carol is Tempus adest floridum("it is time for flowering") - an unrelated Easter song
  6. When the Czech people face danger, legend says St Wenceslas will call forth an army from under Blanik mountain - although where he was during the 1945 Prague Uprising no-one is certain, and Jan Palach must have hoped for an appearance as he burned himself to death in Wenceslas Square in 1969 protesting against the Soviet invasion
  7. He is not only patron saint of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Moravia and Prague - but also of brewers
  8. Because 'Good King Wenceslas' consists of five quatrains in the meter trochaic heptameter and accompanying common time musical score it cannot, sadly, be described as a Bohemian Rhapsody - which is more of an enthusiastic instrumental composition of indefinite form

Phew!  Now bring me flesh and bring me wine... or crisps and beer, I'm not fussy.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Santa Dash... and other gatherings

Has anyone else noticed how people are gathering together to do the silliest things?

Running marathons dressed as Santa, lurching through city centres as the undead, wielding cutlasses in shopping centres!

Liverpool held one of the UK's biggest 'Santa Dash' today (weather permitting... and as long as you're in good elf) - thousands of fun runners were sponsored to complete a 5km route dressed in Santa costumes. "It's for charity." 

They even had a limited number of blue costumes - presumably for Everton supporters - bless!

This is on the heals of Glasgow's (and other cities' Zombie Walk - Prague's looks particularly gruesome... maybe because they're so close to Transylvania they rustle up some real ghouls?) 

I see a pattern developing. Both events involve large numbers of people congregating in crazy costumes in public places. Liverpool also had a 'Mersey Pirate Muster' in the summer (run by a poet chum, but sadly I missed it AAAARGHHHHHHH!) - they're still waiting to see whether their 4000(ish) swashbucklers have made it into the record books. And we'll be taking part in 'National Wrong Trousers Day' next year in the library.

As somebody who still has a 'dressing-up box' I cannot help but applaud such efforts.

In fact I think we should see more of it. It brings people together in a fun and creative way. Maybe we could have a Jedi Jog? A Fairy Frolic? A Panto Horse Steeplechase (scrap that -it's been done! I myself have completed the Grand National Course dressed as a clown).

Any ideas?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Presents with no future

I've thought of a brilliant idea for giving someone an amazing FREE Christmas Present - but all I get is abuse when I mention it. It depends how you look at it - cheapskate pressie from tight-fisted weirdo or  sustainable gift that saves the earth's valuable resources? You decide!

First you 'borrow' (ok steal) the library card of your loved one / sidekick / awkward relative (henceforth know as 'the recipient')  - or you could use your own. Then you go to the biggest library near you and use the card to borrow (this time I don't mean steal) as many of the most gorgeous, newest 'coffee table' books as the ticket allows (eg in Wirral you can get 16 books out on a card!) 

You know the kind I mean - the ones the size of coffee tables, full of mouthwatering photographs or ephemeral nonsense. Books about art, travel, confectionery, puppies, gardens, Star Wars, steam trains, latex... whatever your recipient's 'special' interests may be. Books that lift the heart for a moment but cost £40 in the shops and no matter how beautiful they are, you couldn't justify buying them, and if you did they would barely be looked at after the initial flurry of excitement.

So on Christmas Day your recipient gets a big pile of wonderful books* to browse through over the holidays - to entertain guests, provoke conversations or merely to provide alternative surfaces to put your nuts on! Then when your recipient tires of them you just pop them back to the library. Job done! 

You haven't broke the bank, the author gets a cut through the Public Lending Right, your library is supported and your recipient is touched by the gesture and the effort you put into choosing the best books! 

After all - it's the thought that counts, isn't it? What do you think?

* This probably only works with books. It would be unreasonable to buy someone, say a box of choccies just to look at and then take back to the shop in January. I'm not that cheap!

Other posts about books:       Top 10 Books for Writers         The dog ate my library book

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Two Feet of Snow

I don't know the provenance of this picture - my mate sent it as an email - but I had to share it! Two feet of snow! Tee hee.

But then this wasn't much of a post on it's own so I searched for 'snow sculptures' into Google images... wow! I mean WOW! If only I'd thought of using my time more productively whilst (a) waiting for emergency tow truck on the Inverness Road, or (b) stranded on the M74 - see 'My Scotland Hell

This is just part of a giant snow sculpture in China - look how small the people are ... erm, I mean compared to the sculpture, not in a 'racialist' way.

Some people were stranded long enough near Perth to have a good stab at one like this...

...talking of 'stab' - you could go for something a bit more hard-core.  There's a joke in there somewhere, but I can't think of one just now.

There's a whole panolpy of fornicating Frosties out there too - of course the snow has to be really hard to build anything like this!

I did consider building a snowman to mark our passing - although I'm not sure I'd have managed one this big - 13,000,000 lbs of snow (they get a lot of snow in Maine). More details and, indeed, more 'big' things at WorldsLargestThings. (It's scarf is 140ft - but then so was the one I knitted at school - no-one ever taught me how to cast off!)

But my favourite snow sculpture has to be this one, don't you think?

More snow sculptures, along with underwater and ice sculptures at Logolitic.